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1834 - 1870

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The Utah Black Hawk War; The Unspoken Truth

In collaboration with leaders of the Timpanogos Tribe, Gottfredson shares their version of the Black Hawk war in Utah–a reference point that historians deliberately ignore.

by Phillip B Gottfredson | Author "Black Hawk's Mission Of Peace"Book cover My Journey To Understand Black Hawk's Mission Of Peace by Phillip B Gottfredson

The Timpanogos Tribe of Utah describe that trouble began when Mormon colonists intruded on their land in 1847 and then massacred their people at Battle Creek and Fort Utah in 1849. "They were friendly for a short time" said Chief Wakara, "until they became strong in numbers, then their conduct and treatment towards the Indians changed—they were not only treated unkindly—they have been treated with much severity—they have been driven by this population from place to place—settlements have been made on all their hunting grounds in the valleys, and the graves of their fathers have been torn up by the whites."

"I say go [and] kill them…" said Polygamist leader Brigham Young, "...let the women and children live if they behave themselves…" Young then ordered his all-Mormon militia to "exterminate" the Timpanogos that led to some of the bloodiest massacres in Native American history known today as the Utah Black Hawk War.

Spanning over two decades the LDS Church would spend in excess of a million dollars in church funds to ‘get rid’ of the Timpanogos. Resulting in more than 150 brutal confrontations with Mormon colonists who were recent converts to the Church and had emigrated to North America to "live in freedom the teachings of Christ." Mormon colonists who were ignorant and judgmental of the ancient cultural life-ways of the Timpanogos, ignored their vested treaty rights and aboriginal rights as a sovereign nation. "The war created a vortex of fear and hatred that led to greater violence and brutality on both sides" said historian Will Bagley.

Hypocritical morality resulted in the death of some 70,000 Timpanogos—the aboriginal people of Utah—who died from violence, starvation, and disease after Mormon colonists stole their land and destroyed their culture over a 21-year timeframe according to the detailed account Gottfredson learned from the Native Americans of Utah.

University of Utah Prof. Daniel McCool explained, "We took from them almost all their land—the reservations are just a tiny remnant of traditional tribal homelands. We tried to take from them their hunting rights, their fishing rights, the timber on their land. We tried to take from them their water rights. We tried to take from them their culture, their religion, their identity, and perhaps most importantly, we tried to take from them their freedom."

"What choice were we given? To walk knee deep in the blood of our people, or give up our sacred land and culture and accept white man's ways... it was a matter of what's right... our honor... survival... why is that so hard to understand?" the Timpanogos asked.

"Contrary to what historians would have us believe, the Timpanogos preferred peace over war. For the Timpanogos Tribe—the Utah Black Hawk War was never about the color of a man's skin, religion, riches or possessions. For when the world was created Creator touched it with his hand, and so it is sacred and spiritual. They fought to protect the sacred and their honor. How do I know this? I lived with them; I learned the truth."

Q: Why have I never heard of the Timpanogos?

"The Timpanogos Tribe consist of about 1000 members living on the Uintah Valley Reservation. Is it not curious and disturbing that they are hardly mentioned in the many accounts of the Black Hawk War, while Utah historians appear determined to lay all blame on the Colorado Utes who weren't even in Utah at the time of the Black Hawk War?" See for yourself, visit the Timpanogos website! They are also on Facebook!

"It appears that 'extermination' means ignoring the facts, that the Timpanogos lost everything and were erased from Utah's history. They are believed by many to be nonexistent. Others say they are Utes when again the facts are clear they are two distinctly different Tribes in origin, ancestral bloodlines, and customs."

"The Timpanogos are not enrolled members of the Utes, and never were. The Utes where not in Utah until 1881, 14 years after the Black Hawk War ended." (See: The Timpanogos Ute Oxymoron )

"Utah's Black Hawk War history is only half complete without the Timpanogos!"

The book Indian Depredations In Utah"My great-grandfather Peter Gottfredson was a friend of Black Hawk and spent much of his youth living in the camps of the Timpanogos during the Utah's Indian wars. In 1919 Peter wrote a firsthand account of the Black Hawk War his book Indian Depredations in Utah. Inspired by Peter's book, I wanted very much to know what his experience was living with the Timpanogos."

"In 1989, what began as a mere curiosity about the Black Hawk War led to anPhillip B Gottfredson author of the book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace extended period of exhaustive research spanning over 20 years when it became clear that all accounts were written from the Mormon’s one-sided perspective. Celebrated scholars and award-winning authors who have written about the war never asked or cared what the Native Americans they studied had to say about their work. Nor did they ask them to analyze or interpret their books, or to share their own version of the particular story being told. Consequently, virtually every account about Utah's indigenous peoples is biased and based on assumptions, replete with half-truths, ambiguities, platitudes, and omissions."

"This is a racially prejudice mind-set I concluded, it is a deliberate attempt to divide us both racially and socially—and distort the truth to justify man's inhumanity to man; we can't just ignore the Timpanogos side of the story! We can't just lay all blame on the victims and ignore their side of the story! This must change before there can be truth in education and an honest account of Utah’s history with First Nations.

Ignorance is the root of racism. I recall the famous African proverb that says... "Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter."

"It followed that in 2004, my journey began in earnest when I attended the Grand Opening of the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. I then turned to not just one tribe but all First Nations of Utah to hear their story about the Utah Black Hawk War. It was the most humbling of all experiences in my life."

"Like my great-grandfather, I devoted 2 decades researching and writing about the Utah Black Hawk War. I lived not only with the Timpanogos in Utah on the Uintah Valley Reservation, but various Native American tribes throughout North and South America. From the Makaw in Washington to the Mayan in Guatemala."

"There is much we can learn from Native Americans—if only we would listen. If we would get out of our heads and listen with our hearts. And if you must judge them—do so by their own standards.

"The decades I spent learning from Native peoples throughout the Americas if became obvious to me that Utah's Black Hawk War was the end of a sacred time—a tragedy for the Timpanogos that should be remembered and never forgotten. We can learn to forgive—but never forget."

"The message of Indigenous America is connection, relationship, and unity. All people are one. One of the direct living descendants of Creator. Chief Joseph said, “We have no qualms about color. It has no meaning. It doesn't mean anything." And I believe that was Black Hawk’s message when he made his last ride home to pass out of this world. As he was dying from a gunshot wound to his stomach, he spoke to Mormon settlers along the way pleading for peace, an end to the bloodshed."

"Antonga Black Hawk was but a boy when the Mormons came, and in time became his  Chief Antonga Black Hawk nations leader believing that love can overcome hate, and hypocritical morality. One who respected himself and appreciated others because we are all human. He understood the natural order that all inhabitants of Mother Earth are connected. He loved unconditionally, and forgave unconditionally, and that being born human makes you superior to nothing. He knew that true freedom meant being in harmony with his fellow man and all that our Creator gave us. He fought to protect the sacred, his people, and human equality. This was Black Hawk's mission of peace.

These are traditional teachings of the 'ancient ones' I learned while living with Native Americans. But it gets left out of history because no one cares to ask. It’s all part of the ‘extermination’ of the so-called ‘savages’ and ‘heathens’ I guess…"

“In the end, Black Hawk's grave was robbed by members of the LDS Church at Spring Lake and his mortal remains were put on public display in the window of a hardware store for amusement in Spanish Fork, Utah. Then later was moved to Temple Square in down town Salt Lake City, and there remained on public display for decades."

So, who are the Timpanogos, and what do they say about THE UTAH BLACK HAWK WAR?

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Peter Gottfredson1919 Purchase the book Indian Depredations in Utah INDX Purchase the book Black Hawk's Mission of Peace 2019 Phillip Gottfredson

—A Gottfredson Legacy—


Phillip B Gottfredson is a recipient of the prestigious INDIGONOUS-DAY AWARD from Utah State Division of Indian Affairs

*It is the objective of to help educate people about the Mormon's Black Hawk War and the unjust and undeserved devastation it has brought to the Timpanogos Tribe. We are proud of our efforts to help the Timpanogos Nation find their rightful place in Utah's history that they are entitled to. 

Please donate to The Black Hawk War Research Project


Copyright © 2020 Phillip B Gottfredson All Rights Reserved

Since 2002